The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1996, Volume 42, Number 1
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

by Kathleen Flanigan
Winner of the 1994 Architect Marc Tarasuck Award in the
1994 San Diego Historical Society Institute of History

Images from the Article

Frank Phillips Allen, Jr., who came to San Diego in 1911 to work on the Panama-California Exposition, left an indelible imprint on the architecture and landscape of the city. By profession, he labored as an architect, contractor, and engineer, as well as a sensitive self-­taught landscape designer. His contributions to San Diego’s architectural history reflect the accomplishment of a master in his field. He pioneered no new building style, but designed many substantial structures that were meant to last. Indeed, the remains of his work in this city attest to his achievement as a consummate architect who dealt with all building phases, including the design, engineering and contracting aspects, as well as the general site planning.

Allen, born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1881 to Frank P. and Mary Allen, received early training in the architectural field under the tutelage of his father, a Michigan architect. In his early twenties, after a stint in the Spanish-American War1, Allen and his father practiced architecture under the firm name of Frank P. Allen & Son.2The partnership designed many prominent structures in Grand Rapids around the turn of the century, including the original plant of the Macey Company, the Hoffman Apartments, factory buildings for the Belding Silk Mills, as well as hundreds of Grand Rapids residences.3

After Allen’s tenure with his father, he moved to Chicago in the early 1900s where he worked as a draftsman with Daniel Burnham.4The firm did hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business each year and Allen noticed that with the numerous drawings produced annually, money, time and labor were being wasted in the designs of hotels and office buildings. The need for “standardization” appeared obvious to Allen and he asked permission to put it into practice. Allen calculated that a certain number of office rooms could be planned for a given space and a certain number of floors. He knew what furniture was needed in offices, where desks should be placed for the best lighting, and how rooms should be arranged for use alone or in suite. With “standardization,” many office buildings and hotels could be erected inexpensively from basic plans with only variations in materials, size, and cost depending on the need of the client. From his designs, many commercial edifices were built; some bigger, some smaller, but always from the same general plan.5

After “perfecting a scheme he had grown up with,” Allen “burned out,” and under doctor’s orders took a much-needed vacation. He left Chicago in 1904 and headed west. He bought a pony in Washington and traveled the entire state on horseback, “living a carefree life out of doors and winning health.” The vacation lasted about a year and only ended when his money gave out. Late in 1904, he arrived in Seattle “with little cash but a multitude of ideas and the courage to attempt them. He paid a week’s board, gave his last nickel to a newsboy for a morning paper, and started on a hunt for a job.” Within two days he found work in an architect’s office.6

While employed with a Seattle architect, Allen pondered over why more architects were not builders. He thought this would be a good plan to combine the two vocations, those of an architect and contractor. He felt he could make money for himself with this combination, as well as save money for clients. He decided at this point to open his own architectural/contracting office. This concept, well-received in the Seattle area, proved quite lucrative for Allen as the area was in the midst of a building boom.

From the beginning, he was swamped with business, something he liked very much because he wanted to see how long it would take him to “burrow out.” His work attracted attention. With his innovative ideas, he was leaving behind older, more experienced architects and builders. He continued pioneering new thoughts on building construction including the pouring of concrete in freezing weather. He received a contract for the nine-story Perry Hotel and completed it in unheard of time — two months and two days. During this time, he lent his professional expertise as consulting engineer to Portland’s Lewis and Clark Exposition, held in 1905.7

His accomplishments in Portland led to his employment as the Director of Works for the Seattle exposition which opened in 1909. Seattle wanted “a man who could work fast and save.” Allen was given two and one half years to complete his portion of the work for the exposition. He finished it in one year and ten months.8

Allen’s experience, dedication, and achievements with these worlds’ fairs, and his association with the Olmsted Brothers, America’s foremost contemporary landscape architects who planned the horticultural layout at both sites, drew the attention of the Panama-California Exposition directors. With the high regard held for that exposition by many San Diegans who visited Seattle during that time, and upon the recommendation of the Olmsted Brothers, Allen was hired as the Director of Works for the Panama-California Exposition in January 1911.9 Now noted widely for his “faithfulness to every detail, and his masterly execution of the big undertaking” in Seattle, Allen was directed to execute the Olmsted exposition plan in San Diego.10 Allen established his residency at 3578 Seventh Avenue, a few doors up from the home of San Diego businessman and civic leader George W. Marston.11

D. C. Collier, the Director General of the Panama-California Exposition explained Allen’s role and background in a letter to exposition stockholders dated February 3, 1911. He wrote,

You are to be congratulated upon securing the services of so eminent an Engineer as Mr. Frank P. Allen, Jr., of Seattle, Washington, as Director of Works of the San Diego Exposition. Mr. Allen bears an enviable reputation on the Pacific Coast as an Engineer. He is also an Architect of recognized ability, and comes to us with a splendid record as an Exposition builder. He will have charge of all engineering problems, determine the fitness of Architectural plans and will have exclusive charge of all construction work. He will not only supervise all construction work of whatever character, but will organize a working force and actually construct all Exposition buildings, thus making a saving to the Company of all contractors’ fees, which, figured at ten per cent, would amount to $175,000. The Board of Directors has contracted to pay Mr. Allen $20,000 per annum for his services.12

Upon Allen’s arrival to his new position, the first order of business involved the topographical survey of the area which he felt needed to be completed before the arrival of Bertram Goodhue, the noted New York and Boston architect.13 Allen found fault with the Olmsted recommendation of an exposition set along the Florida canyon site and proposed the actual site, “pointing out its advantages from a scenic point of view.” But exposition directors fought him, arguing “it would be impractical to build a bridge over the Cabrillo canyon, that the cost would be too great.” Allen demonstrated that his plans would be cost-effective, and in the end he won his battle.14

Disgruntled with the final location of the exposition buildings, the Olmsteds withdrew from the project. Allen “volunteered to shoulder the responsibility” for the exposition planting. He did not know one plant from another, so he procured books that would teach him landscaping basics. He conferred repeatedly with the State Agricultural Department in reference to native and practical planting. He implemented an irrigation system for the park which consisted of thirty-seven miles of pipes. He studied hill and valley and soil and determined what would do best and what would be the most acceptable for each building scheme. He hunted for model Mexican parks and found none that could be adopted here. He studied colors and effects and “finally decided that no scheme could be more appropriate than to copy the nature schemes of San Diego’s own back country.” He passed days in San Diego County studying the greens, browns and yellows. He sent soil samples away and had them analyzed, and hired a chemist to study the reports. After much deliberation, Allen devised a landscaping plan which would be workable and cost effective for the exposition.15

After this episode, the architect sat down and debated in his imagination the type of architecture that would fit naturally into the semi-arid landscape of San Diego. He wanted a building style which would “seem to have grown out of the ground.” He wanted to get away from the bleak, cold, formal lines and erect his “Dream City” to harmonize with the surroundings. Allen proceeded to read a number of books on the architecture of Mexico and Spain, and discovered that while some of the architecture was not pleasing to the eye, he could take

the main part of one building and placing thereon the tower of another, the decorations of another and in it the window scheme of still another, he could create attractive buildings that would hold to the traditions and precedent of Spanish architecture. This is the reason that some of the exposition buildings are three and four structures fashioned into one.16

One of Allen’s earliest exposition projects involved the construction of the Cabrillo Bridge, an arched structure which spanned Cabrillo Canyon, designed in 1911. It was the first multiple-arched, cantilever-type bridge built in California. The overpass, built of reinforced concrete at a cost of $225,154, extended 916 feet across the canyon. Its main portion comprised seven semicircular 56 foot arches for a maximum height of 120 feet to the roadway.17 Called a viaduct in Engineering News, the bridge was considered “not a series of arches but rather a series of hollow, box-like pedestals with the upper parts cantilevering out to form the arched openings.”18 With great ceremony, the bridge was dedicated April 12, 1914, and the first person to ride across it was Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy.19

Allen contributed his architectural, engineering, and horticultural expertise to a number of other park designs. He provided the practical or engineering requirements for the exposition Administration Building, designed in 1911 by Carleton M. Winslow.20 Allen also planned the Montezuma Gardens and the Doric-style Pergola near the California Building.21

The architect designed the two-story Sacramento Valley Building, also known as the United States Building, which was located at the north side of the main plaza of the exposition. Carleton Winslow described the edifice in great detail in The Architecture and the Gardens of the San Diego Exposition:

The first story of the structure, raised somewhat above the pavement of the plaza by a flight of seven steps, consisted of an arcade or loggia of seven bays with an engaged column at each pier, flanked by projecting pavilions at either side. A broad window was located above each arch, faced with an iron balcony with a similar treatment at the center of each end pavilion. A hipped tile roof with a richly colored and gilded cornice crowned the edifice.22

Allen also drew plans for the Canadian Building and the arcade which connected the portales. Winslow described the arcade:


both to the northward and the south, the vistas from this arcade are among the most delightful of the Exposition. To the north, flanked by the corner pavilions of the arcades of the Prado is the long pool or ‘Laguna de Las Flores,’ with the vista stopped by the Botanical Building. This beautiful garden space has been renamed the Court of Leap Year, well merited by its singular grace and almost insinuating charm. To the southward the visitor has a wonderful view across the gorgeous little garden between the two buildings to the hills and valleys of the Park and the city, sea and islands beyond.23

The Botanical Building, also called the “Lath House,” provided the focal point of horticultural interest at the exposition. The edifice, a combination of the practical requirements of Allen and the design of Carleton Winslow, was built of redwood, stucco, steel, and concrete. As Winslow described it, “The building is an ornamental example of the lath-covered, open conservatory common to Southern California, which forms ample protection to the tropical and semi-tropical plants from the wind and too intense heat of the sun.”24 A Roman Doric-style pergola, located in the Jardin de las Flores toward the west of the Botanical Building, was also designed by Allen.25

Allen’s San Joaquin Valley building, located on the east side of the Esplanade, exemplified the Baroque or Churrigueresque building period in Mexico. The two-story structure featured elaborately decorated bays with simpler end pavilions “having fructated gables.”26

In addition, Allen lent his architectural and engineering expertise to the erection of many of the other exposition buildings. In fact, various publications in 1915 support the thesis that Allen designed all the exposition structures, with the exception of the California Building quadrangle, as well as planned the gardens. The April 29, 1915 edition of Engineering News stated that, with the exception of the California State Building and the Fine Arts Building, “all the other buildings of the exhibition company, and those of the several counties, were designed by Mr. Allen.” Other periodicals of this time support this viewpoint including The Architect, The International Studio, and The American Architect.27

Allen wrote about the exposition in the June 1915 edition of the Pacific Coast Architect:


In most of the large expositions the main group (of buildings) has been quite solidly built, with buildings comparatively close together and more or less symmetrical in plan. This arrangement was impossible with us on account of the frequent canyons and undesirable because the funds available were insufficient to cover the space. Consequently, our buildings are symmetrical around the main axis only, are all irregular in plan and are separated so that gardens and patios may be placed between them. The buildings are all connected by arcades which tend to make them count as groups rather than as individuals and so increases the scale of the whole.

He continued,

The same informal treatment produces many charming effects from the gardens and parks, and is of constant interest to the visitor. In leaving a building he may enter a formal flower garden ablaze with color. Leaving this by a walk with solid walls of living green, he comes into a park where he has the choice of several routes; he may enter an exhibit building or continue through the park, in which case he discovers new views of the buildings he has left, and unsuspected vistas through the planting; and as he follows the path, he may stop to rest in a rose-covered pergola, in the cool shade of old trees or in the warm sun on the south.

Additionally, Allen reported, “These parks have been designed with as much care as the buildings and always with the object of holding the interest of the visitor … The planting of the Exposition is fully as important as the buildings.” He further stated,

In our work, we have avoided the extremes, endeavoring to secure natural effects and escape any effect of artificiality. The canyons and their slopes are planted as the typical natural canyons of Southern California. In the bottom are groups of trees and meadows of wild flowers bright with color. The pools and small water courses are overhung with a heavier growth, while the slopes are covered with a dense chaparral which grows deeper and richer as it nears the buildings on the mesa.28

The San Diego Union in its November 29, 1914 issue, paid tribute to Allen and his genius:


What five years ago was a dreamy, hazy vision in the minds of a scattering of Southland enthusiasts is today a picturesque reality and stands in mute but inspiring tribute to the genius of that master builder of expositions, Frank P. Allen, Jr. The Panama-California Exposition is complete more than a month before the time set for opening. The enormous task which confronted the Director of Works Allen in all its staggering immensity four years ago, is a living testimony to his talent as an artist, his ability as a builder, his scheme of standardization, his systematic methods exercised in saving time and money and his complete understanding of human nature.29

During Allen’s tenure with the exposition staff, he also contributed his talents to the design of the Maryland Hotel in San Diego, erected for local banker Joseph W. Sefton, Jr. in 1913. Acting as consulting engineer/architect with architect, William Sterling Hebbard, Allen assisted in the preparation of plans for this six-story structure located on Sixth and Seventh Avenues and F Street. Built of steel and brick and finished with Tracy Tapestry brick set in wide recessed joints, the building was trimmed with ornamental stone, and featured a number of individual balconies. The hotel, called “one of the most modernly equipped in San Diego,” was the only one in the city to have connecting baths with all 295 rooms, as well as telephones and clothes closets.30

By the end of the exposition in 1916, Allen and his wife, Mabel, moved to 3130 First Avenue. He established his architectural office in the Watts Building at 520 E Street, where he remained until 1917.31

In 1916, Allen designed the two-story “Italian style” residence and gardens of Colonel J. H. Pendleton on the corner of 8th and A in Coronado.32 The rough plaster house with stained shingle roof, featured an entrance on A Avenue under a divided pergola. The first floor contained a vestibule, reception hall, large living room, library, dining room, kitchen, pantries, servant’s rooms, bath, laundry porch and garage. The second level included four bedrooms, baths and shower, large sleeping porch, and two servants’ rooms over the garage. The interior woodwork, finished in enamel with polished oak floors, exhibited a number of indirect lighting effects. All the living rooms opened to the terrace and the garden which was surrounded on all sides with high planting instead of a fence which shut off all view from the street and lent privacy to the grounds. Allen planted purple bougainvillea to cover the house and utilized climbing roses to crown the pergola.33

The W. S. and R. E. Vandruff $200,000 estate, located on Copley and Oregon Streets and now incorporated into Our Lady of Peace Academy, was designed by Allen in 1916.34 The Vandruffs, impressed with the harmonious appearance of the exposition buildings and their natural environments, engaged Allen to design their Italian Renaissance style homes, a laboratory building, and other minor structures including an 85 foot plunge, on twenty acres overlooking Mission Valley.35 The reinforced concrete two and three story residences, which contained 25 and 30 rooms, were crowned with red, unglazed tile roofs. The white stuccoed edifices with varying window shapes and sizes, some pedimented, featured occasional balconies and columnaded recesses, as well as terra cotta quoins on some building portions. The modernly equipped houses contained both direct and indirect lighting systems installed under the guidance of H. G. Landis of the Landis Electrical Company. A switchboard in each building gave complete control of the illumination. The structures had individual heating systems with an oil burning boiler located in the basements. An inter-communicating phone system was also installed.36

The two-story laboratory building contained the garage, and the machine and woodworking shops. A 26-foot dome dominated the north end of the edifice, which was to house the largest privately owned astronomical observatory in the United States. Allen designed the structure so that the six-ton telescope would rest on a pedestal of independent “I” beams, and the floor support would consist of a reinforced monolith suspended from the walls of the observatory so that no vibrations could be imparted to the instrument.37

The homes and laboratory, carefully planned and placed in relation to one another, formed an impressive group, yet each maintained its own separate identity and individuality. As the San Diego Union of January 1, 1918, reported,


Architectural variety is secured in a score of ways without sacrificing the basic unity. For example, the eye notes with satisfaction the varied roofs, the laboratory bearing the dome where the great telescope will be mounted, the roof of Mr. W. S. Vandruff’s home to the north, sharing very simple lines, while upon the central building, the home of Mr. R. E. Vandruff, lifts a low square tower that forms a pleasing focal center for the entire group. Each building has a frontage different from the rest. Each, while it commands an outlook in all directions, opens especially toward one chosen set of views. And each is admirably adapted to its site, being arranged both with relation to the gardens and vistas of its individual environment and to the unparalled and more distant panorama.38

The bathing pool, located to the west of the building complex, was flanked on the south end by an arcaded pavilion, also called the casino, and on the north end with a small dressing room edifice which featured a columnaded entry.39

Allen also planned the landscape scheme which incorporated a multitude of trees, shrubbery, and flowers. A variety of palms, weeping willows, native lilacs, Acacia Bailyana, and coniferous trees including seventeen kinds of pine, fire, cedar, cypress, and redwood trees, surrounded the structures and extended into the canyon areas.40

The architect left San Diego in 1917 for Ballard, Washington (now a part of Seattle). In Ballard, Allen owned and operated the Allen Shipbuilding Corporation which built numerous wooden ships for the United States Maritime Commission.41 He returned to San Diego in 1919 where he established his architectural office at 1007 Fifth Avenue and resided with his wife, Mabel, at 2346 Third Avenue.42

In 1925, as president of the Allen Building Company, incorporated in 1924, the architect bought property at Fifth and Sixth Avenues and Spruce Street with the intent of constructing an apartment/hotel complex on the site. After the purchase, Allen changed the company name to Park Manor Incorporated, formed a syndicate of prominent San Diegans such as Frank J. Belcher, Jr., E. F. Chase, James D. Forward, Morton B. Fowler, Percy H. Goodwin, Ralph E. Jenney, and others, and made plans to erect the Park Manor Apartment Hotel for a cost of $750,000.43

The announcement of the plans to build the Park Manor in the August 14, 1925 edition of the San Diego Union stated,


The building itself has been designed throughout by F. P. Allen, Jr., one of San Diego’s leading architects, who has made visits to all parts of the country to study other similar projects and to learn everything possible about the design and construction of such a building as Park Manor is to be, combining all possible desirable features and eliminating all undesirable.44

The seven-story Italian Renaissance style red brick edifice featured quoins and a belt course which ran between the first and second floors and the fifth and sixth levels. A recessed entry on Spruce Street with a broken arched pediment supported by two classical columns, was surrounded by decorative stonework. A medallion placed in the center of the broken arch contained the initials “PM” for Park Manor.45

The building, located across the street from Balboa Park, commanded panoramic views of the entire city. According to the architect, “not one of the apartments faces either a dead wall or another apartment.”46

The 82 apartments contained five different-sized suites. The smallest consisted of a living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and dressing room with either a double or twin beds. The larger suites contained separate bedrooms and sun rooms, and were located at the corners of the structure.47

A solarium and lounge room was placed on the roof. Privileges which accompanied the rental of suites included: heat, gas, electricity, mail service, house laundry, regular housework including dishwashing, telephone use, daily newspapers, soap, soap powder, electric irons, radio loudspeakers with a choice of four programs, flowers, entertainment rooms, and home utilities. Apartments contained folding twin beds and built-in closets. The Park Manor included a restaurant from which meals could be sent directly to rooms in the house, and a commissary where either meals could be prepared or delicatessen foods could be purchased, both of which were unique concepts in the city. Allen reflected that “We have made the greatest effort to provide an atmosphere of ‘home’ without excluding the hotel convenience of community sociability.”48

Allen planned a south-facing garden, planted by Milton Sessions, which featured views of Glorietta Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The architect felt this was “an appropriate setting for the immense building which is surrounded by the beauties which are exclusively San Diego’s.”49 Terraces, palm trees, numerous shrubs and potted plants made the garden a beautiful focal spot for residents. Wide verandas covered by awnings, set with plants and reed furniture, provided a refuge for guests.50

Upon completion of this structure, Allen and his wife moved to the Park Manor Hotel.51 He maintained his office at 1007 Fifth Avenue in the First National Bank Building, and by 1927, advertised as an architect and engineer in the San Diego City and County Directory.52

In 1926, Allen designed the First Trust and Savings Bank, located on the corner of University and Fairmount in East San Diego. The two-story Spanish Renaissance style building opened to the public on December 4, 1926, with hundreds of people in attendance.53 Frank Belcher, part of the Park Manor syndicate, was president of the bank which was “declared to be one of the latest credits to the construction program in East San Diego.54

Allen drew plans in 1927 for the five-story Italian Renaissance style Cuyamaca Club to be located on Second and A Streets. The $500,000 clubhouse deemed “one of the finest homes in the state,” was to include a first floor devoted to men’s card and lounge rooms, a foyer, and a grill. The second story featured the main dining room in which “women may hold dinner parties.”55 Allen, a director of the club, along with president C. O. Richards and others, worked together on the plans for the organization. Unfortunately, this remarkable structure was never built.56

In October 1927, Allen designed the $150,000 “Mediterranean style” Original French Laundry building on the corner of 1Oth and University. The two-­storied building fronted one hundred feet on University Avenue and 150 feet on Tenth Avenue. The main facade, which faced University, featured seven glass bays across the front, flanked on either end by two-storied pavilions, with decorative wrought-iron grillwork below the roof line. The structure contained a laundry plant “as efficiently arranged as a thoroughly modern manufacturing establishment.”57 In 1933, the American Institute of Architects honored Allen for his design of the French Laundry building, citing the “praise-worthy collaboration of owner and architect to give decorative front to a useful interior.”58

In March 1928, Allen designed the “modern” Charles Holzwasser residence located at 575 A Street in Coronado. Holzwasser, who owned the Holzwasser Department Store in San Diego on Fifth and Broadway, erected a two-story Moderne/Art Deco home which featured a dentilated parapet, a unique Moderne entrance facade, and an innovative fenestration. The building, which sloped down a hill, also included a two-car garage.59

The $150,000 Hamilton’s Inc. food store, sketched in the “most modern style” in 1928 by Allen, exhibited an early commercial Art Deco/Moderne design. Located at Seventh and C Streets, the two-story building, constructed of reinforced concrete, featured a polychrome concrete exterior with “interesting wrought iron light standards.”60 This structure, considered the first of San Diego’s buildings to feature the modernistic style of architecture, presented a “massive and towering effect to construction.”61

The “richly decorated” first floor of the store was furnished with the latest of fixtures. The interior featured oak and marble throughout. A 73-foot soda fountain and lunch counter, the longest in San Diego, provided an intriguing asset to this innovative building.62

The second floor and mezzanine, hung from the roof trusses, received no support from the columns which would interfere with the beauty of the first floor. The mezzanine incorporated the firm’s offices, and the second floor provided a cooking and baking plant which featured the latest in sanitary equipment. The second floor, which contained no windows, was illuminated entirely by skylights, which gave the building the illusion of a massive one-story structure. A spacious basement provided a storage area.63 Allen received a 1933 American Institute of Architects citation for this edifice because of its “rich, well decorated exterior and interior, and its excellent setting for choice merchandise.64

In May 1928, Allen designed the new two-story Whitney and Company building, located on Fourth and Fifth Avenues between B and C Streets. The “Ultra Modern” store featured a frontage of 70 feet on both Fourth and Fifth Avenues. The Fourth Avenue side of the edifice displayed a prominent glass facade, with black tile surrounding the windows as well as the doorway. A narrow margin of green tile, featured on the upper part of the Fourth Avenue front, highlighted that entrance.65

Allen devised working plans in August 1928 for the $69,000 San Diego High School gymnasium.66 This job proved to be a thorn in his side. During construction of the edifice, six trusses gave way, and three men were injured, one seriously. Lawsuits were filed.67 The September 19, 1930 edition of the San Diego Union reported that $44,500 was awarded injured workers on the gymnasium. Frank P. Allen, along with the school district and the National Iron Works, were held responsible.68 Allen’s portion of the bill amounted to $18,000 which was reduced to $9,640.92 in March 1931.69

Personal difficulties followed. In June 1931, Allen and his wife separated, and on August 5 of that same year, Mabel Ashe Allen filed for divorce.70

The last known structure that Allen designed in San Diego was the single-storied Federal Truck Building, erected on the corner of Ninth and Market Streets in 1931. He received an A.I.A. award in 1933 for this building because it exhibited a “good example of brilliant color on strong structural design in concrete.”71

In 1932, Allen moved to Los Angeles. He remarried sometime after 1940 and his last known employment was as an engineer-draftsman for Liberty Ship construction with the California Shipbuilding Corporation in Wilmington. He died an untimely death at the age of 63 on July 5, 1943, when he was run over by a heavy motorized lumber carrier as he walked from behind a pile of steel girders. Cremation followed funeral services at Forest Lawn Mortuary in Glendale.72

Allen left behind an architectural, engineering, and horticultural legacy in San Diego unmatched by any of his time. His life-long passion for standardization, and the utilization of contracting, engineering and planning skills, coupled with his architectural expertise, saved clients time and money. Extant structures and gardens, as well as historic documentation of buildings now demolished, attest to his impressive presence in this city. His careful devotion in all respects to the creation of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, as well as the erection of residential and commercial structures such as the Vandruff and Pendleton estates and the Park Manor Apartment Hotel, lend credence to his reputation as a consummate San Diego architect worthy of remembrance and tribute.



1. Allen served throughout the Spanish-American War as a corporal in Company E of the 32nd Regiment of Michigan Volunteers. See the Frank P. Allen, Jr. biographical file at the San Diego History Center. A discussion of his war escapades is profiled in “Deserted Regiment to Go to Front and Fight,” San Diego Union, 3 February 1911, p. 9, which claims Allen deserted his regiment at Port Tampa, Florida, hurried to Santiago in a newspaper boat, and “fought in the thickest of the fray.” Allen claimed that “Not a word was ever heard from home about our desertion. When we came back from Cuba, the troops remained in Georgia for some time.” In Georgia, Allen and his group complained about the conduct of the officers and the fact they were not given enough to eat. He and his friends were threatened with a court-martial. He communicated his dismay to General Alger, who was Secretary of War and Michigan Governor Pingree. Within a few days, Allen was discharged from the service with papers that did not indicate “honorable” or “dishonorable,” but simply “discharge.” The article concluded that “The regiment Allen deserted never went to the front, but was returned home from Tampa. Orders arrived about the time of the desertion stating that its services in Cuba, would not be required. Those who took the journey in the press boat all had their share of the fierce fighting about San Juan Hill and in the other important engagements preceding the fall of Santiago.” On June 30, 1902, Governor Bliss of Michigan issued a letter of commendation for Allen’s role in the Spanish-American War. The letter, located in the Frank P. Allen file at the San Diego History Center, stated, “The State of Michigan, in grateful acknowledgment of the valor and patriotic devotion of her gallant sons who participated in the Spanish-American War of 1898, has directed that a bronze medal of honor be prepared as an enduring testimonial of their loyalty, patriotism and fidelity.”

2. The Allen biographical file cites the Grand Rapids newspaper dated 9 July 1943. In addition, Allen’s grandfather was the well-known Grand Rapids lawyer, Nathan P. Allen.

3. See the Allen biographical file.

4. The Allen biographical file contains an obituary from the San Diego Union, 6 July 1943. The tenure with Burnham was also mentioned in “Exposition Tribute to Master Builder, San Diego Union, 29 November 1914, p. 1.

5. “Exposition Tribute,” San Diego Union, November 29, 1914, p. 1.

6. Ibid., 29 November 1914, p. 3.

7. See the letter to the stockholders of the Panama-California Exposition from Director General D.C. Collier, dated 3 February 1911 in the Richard Amero, Balboa Park Collection at the San Diego History Center, which mentions Allen’s role as consulting engineer with the Portland Exposition.

8. “Exposition Tribute,” San Diego Union, 29 November 1914, p. 3. Also, Putnam’s Magazine 6 (May 1909): 172, which chronicles the Alaska-Yukon Exposition, includes a photo of Allen, the Director of Works of the Exposition, along with photos of William H. Seward, I. A. Nadeau, Director-General of the Exposition, and J. E. Chilberg, President of the Exposition. The D. C. Collier, February 3, 1911 letter also mentions Allen’s work with the Seattle exposition and states that “The Seattle Exposition is the only International Exposition whose building and grounds were completed in every detail prior to the opening of the gates and that this stupendous task was accomplished by Mr. Allen in nineteen months.”

9. The Allen biographical file includes citation of his experience with the Seattle exposition that led to his employment in San Diego. See also the “Exposition Tribute,” San Diego Union, 29 November 1914, and “Directors Engage Foremost Builder,”

San Diego Union, 6 January 1911, p. 1, which reported that John C. Olmsted said of Allen, “I know of no other man in the country so capable in this line of work. He has all the faculties and combined knowledge which is required in a task of the kind before him. He is an expert architect, is a thorough constructing engineer, has great executive ability and a level business head. It is seldom one finds a man possessing such a perfect combination.” In addition, Olmsted said, “Mr. Allen demonstrated his worth as director of works in the construction and establishment of the Alaska-Yukon Exposition at Seattle. This is the only exposition that was completed and ready by the opening day, and the credit was due to the efficiency of Mr. Allen.”

10. “Directors Engage Builder,” San Diego Union, 6 January 1911, p. 1.

11. San Diego City and County Directories, 1911-1915, cite Allen’s residency at 3578 7th Avenue. Bruce Kamerling, “Self-Guided Walking Tour of Seventh Avenue,” Journal of San Diego History, 36 (Spring/Summer 1990): 151, supports this. Allen filed for his architectural certification in the San Diego County Recorder’s Office on 9 May 1910. Further information is contained in Miscellaneous Book, Office of County Recorder, Vol. 38, page 116. He held license number 659 granted by the California State Board of Architectural Examiners.

12. See the D. C. Collier, 3 February 1911 letter, which states that “This plan (with Allen acting as contractor) will also give practically exclusive employment to San Diego labor, which would not be possible if the construction of the buildings were let to outside contractors. Experience at both the Portland and Seattle expositions shows that fully ninety per cent of the construction work was done by outside contractors employing outside labor.”

13. “Exposition Heads Plan Conference,” San Diego Union, 1 April 1911, p.9.

14.”Exposition Tribute,” San Diego Union, 29 November 1914, p.1.

15. Ibid., p. 3. See also Mark S. Watson, “Fine Arts at the Exposition,” Arts and Progress, (1915), p. 454, from the Amero Collection, which states that Allen “supervised the landscape architecture surrounding the buildings and stretching down into the canyons.”

16. “Exposition Tribute,” San Diego Union, 29 November 1914.

17. “The Panama-California Exposition,” Engineering News, 73 (May 13, 1915): 929, in the Amero Collection. See W. J. Palethorpe, CPA-Los Angeles, “The Report on the Panama-California Exposition to April 30, 1916,” contained in the Amero Collection, which stated that the bridge cost $225,154.98, as well as enumerated other expenditures.

18. “The Panama-California Exposition,” Engineering News, p. 929. This article also stated that “The bridge was designed in the engineering department of the exposition, under the direction of Mr. Allen, and was built by the exposition forces.”In this periodical, it was stated that the total cost of the bridge and approaches was $195,653, including the overhead charges for design and supervision, although the actual accounting of the expense in 1916 amounted to more than $225,000. C. Matlack Price, “The Panama-California Exposition, San Diego, California,” the Architectural Record, (March 1915), no page number, contained in the Amero Collection, stated that “the bridge over the Cabrillo canon, designed by the Director of Works,” was considered a permanent structure.

19. Florence Christman, The Romance of Balboa (San Diego: San Diego Historical Society, 1985, p. 55. See also Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue with Carleton Monroe Winslow, The Architecture and the Gardens of the San Diego Exposition (San Francisco: Paul Elder and Company Publishers, 1916), p. 24.

20. Goodhue, The Architecture and the Gardens, p. 28.

21. Ibid., p.70.

22. Ibid., p.92.

23. Ibid., p. 106.

24. Ibid., p. 130. Perhaps Allen and Winslow were inspired by the San Francisco Conservatory, erected in Golden Gate Park in 1875.

25. Ibid., p. 124.

26. Ibid., p. 150.

27. See “The Panama-California Exposition,” Engineering News, April 29, 1915. The Architect, (June 1915) (Amero Collection), contained a number of photographs of Exposition structures and cited the architect’s name below. Those credited to Allen include: the Arcade and Tower of Commerce and Industries Building, the Sacramento Valley Building, the Varied Industries Building, Food Products Building (with Goodhue as consulting architect), the Botanical Building, Home Economy Building (with Goodhue as consulting architect), the Southern California Building (with Goodhue as consulting architect). See also Christian Brinton, “The San Diego and San Francisco Expositions,” The International Studio 55 (June 1915): cvi (Amero Collection), which states that with the exception of the California Quadrangle and the Music Pavilion, “The remaining buildings are the creation of Mr. Frank P. Allen, Jr.” The article states, “all (buildings) continue the Spanish-Colonial motif with conspicuous success. None of them is in the least out of harmony with the general ensemble, and there is not one that does not display uncommon capacity for the assimilation and adaptation of this singularly effective architectural style.” W. B. Faville, “The Panama-California Exposition, San Diego, California,” The American Architect, 107 (17 March 1915): 179 (Amero Collection), wrote, “Mr. Bertram G. Goodhue, the architect who designed the California building and the buildings surrounding this court, and who also inspired other work, is to be congratulated upon the part of the designing which he dominated and which adds so tremendously to the total effect. The balance of the architectural work has been designed and executed by a general designing staff under the supervision of Mr. Frank P. Allen, Jr., Director of Works.”

28. See Frank P. Allen, “Panama-California Exposition,” Pacific Coast Architect 9 (June 1915) (Amero Collection), which provides further details on the Exposition.

29. “Exposition Tribute,” San Diego Union, 29 November 1914, p. 1.

30. Initially, Allen and architect Irving J. Gill had proposed plans for a hotel and store building on this site as indicated in “Seftons Plan to Build Big Hotel,” San Diego Union, 3 December 1912, p. 1. However, “To Begin Sefton Block February 1,” San Diego Union, 17 December 1912, p. 13, reported that the hotel, to be erected by J. W. Sefton, Jr., was designed by William Sterling Hebbard with Frank P. Allen, director of works at the Panama-California Exposition, acting as consulting engineer. See also, “Work to Begin on Hotel and Store Building of Sefton Investment Company on F Near Sixth,” San Diego Union, 23 March 1913, p. 1, which features a drawing of the hotel structure that includes the names of Hebbard and Allen on the plans.

31. San Diego City and County Directories, 1916-1917, indicate Allen’s business address in room 502 in the Watts Building as well as his residency.

32. Pendleton, for whom Camp Pendleton is named, most likely met Allen when his 4th Marine Regiment was assigned to duty at the Panama-California Exposition in 1914-1915. See Christman, The Romance of Balboa Park, pp. 53-54.

33. “Work Begun on Col. Pendleton’s Home at Coronado,” San Diego Union, 14 May 1916, p. 12. An interview with the current owner, Mr. Sherwood Ritchie on 23 December 1993, who purchased the property in 1972, indicated that the Pendletons had owned the site through the 1940s and had sold the A Avenue portion during that time which contained the gardens and the rear parcel which contained a citrus orchard.

34. “Attractive Homes Near Completion,” San Diego Union, 14 January 1917, p. 2, also includes a picture of the buildings under construction. Ground was broken in May 1916 and it was expected that the buildings would be completed in five or six months. However, it was felt that the homes would not reach their full beauty until the elaborate planting scheme had a year or two of growth. Frank P. Allen, Jr. supervised the construction work which was done by day labor. See also Sister Mary Jean Fields, “Reminiscences of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and the Academy of Our Lady of Peace, 1882-1982,” Journal of San Diego History 28 (Summer 1982): 178-193, for further information on Our Lady of Peace Academy and early photographs of the Vandruff estate.

35. San Diego Union, 1 January 1918, p. 8.

36. Ibid.

37. Ibid. The Union reported that “the telescope will be a twelve-inch equatorial of the same type as the famous Lick telescope at Mt. Hamilton, California. The Warner and Swazey Company of Cleveland, Ohio, has the contract for constructing the telescope and the internationally famous works of John A. Brashear at Pittsburgh, PA will grind and do the final polishing of the objective lens. Due to the war, the latter is still held in Paris, France. When completed this instrument will be a slightly smaller replica of the large equatorial telescope which was recently installed in the Chabot Observatory at Oakland, California. The total weight of the instrument will be approximately six tons, and the parts moved by the driving clock will weigh fully three and one-half tons.” The article also explained that both men, interested in geology and the sciences, had done many oil surveys, one of which resulted in the discovery of the greatest oil field so far known in the history of our country in Oklahoma.

38. Ibid.

39. San Diego Union, 14 January 1917, p. 2; 1 January 1918 p. 8.

40. Ibid.

41. The Allen biographical file references his involvement with shipbuilding during the World War I.

42. See the Allen biographical file and the San Diego City and County Directory, 1920-1924.

43. A title search of the property indicated the Allen, Allen Building Company, and Park Manor Inc. ownership. The Allen Building Company Articles of Incorporation for the Allen Building Company and Park Manor Corporation, are located in collection R2.5 at the San Diego History Center. Additional members of the syndicate included William F. Ludington, H.L. Sullivan, R. E. Harrison, Clarence W. McCabe, C. L. Richards, Nat Rogan, G. M. Whitney, E. B. Gould, E. H. Crabtree, and others. Also, “$750,000 Apartment-Hotel to Be Built Here, San Diego Union, 14 August 1925, p. 1, reported on the Park Manor syndicate and stated that the organization, represented by Rogan & Co., was backed by the First National Bank, the Security Commercial and Savings Bank, and Stephens and Company.

44. “$750,000 Apartment Hotel,” San Diego Union, 14 August 1925, p. 1.

45. See Corey Braun’s architectural description of the Park Manor Apartment Hotel in San Diego Historical Site Board report, No. 253, 30 October 30 1990; “$750,000 Apartment Hotel,” San Diego Union, 14 August 1925, p. 1; and “Doors of $750,000 Park Manor Apartment Hotel Is Open to Permit Inspection by Public Today,” San Diego Union, 4 July 1926, p. 7.

46. Ibid.

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid.

49. Ibid.

50. Ibid. See also various brochures published by the Park Manor Hotel contained in the Park Manor Hotel file at the San Diego History Center archives which include photographs of the garden scheme.

51. San Diego City and County Directory, 1926.

52. Ibid., 1927.

53. “Hundreds View Banking House,” San Diego Union, 5 December 1926, p. 12.

54. Ibid.

55. “Cuyamaca Club Soon Will Have One of Finest Homes in State,” San Diego Union, 5 June 1927, p. 12.

56. Ibid. The Union story included a drawing of the proposed structure.

57. See “Two-Story Laundry Building Will Be Constructed On Tenth and University Corner at Cost of $150,000,” San Diego Union, 16 October 1927, p. 12, for further details of the laundry which has been demolished. Also, the Southwest Builder and Contractor, 21 October 1927, p. 57, includes information on a “Class A laundry at 10th and University for the Original French Laundry, $150,000.” Photographs of the building are on file in the Photograph Collection of the San Diego History Center.

58. “Architectural Honor Awards Made On Many San Diego Buildings,” Southwest Builder and Contractor, 14 July 1933, p. 13.

59. Ibid., 2 March 1928, p. 87.

60. “Early Finish Of Hamiltons Is Promised,” San Diego Union, 15 April 1928, p. 1 (Development Section). See also, “All That’s Modern Comes to San Diego to Build Greater Southland,” San Diego Union, 15 April 1928, p. 2 (Development Section) which also includes a drawing of the structure.

61. “Early Finish,” San Diego Union, 15 April 1928, p. 1.

62. Ibid.

63. Ibid. This article further stated that “Frank P. Allen, Jr., designer of San Diego’s Exposition buildings, Park Manor apartment hotel and numerous other outstanding structures in the west, is the architect. M. Trepte & Son, also of this city, are the contractors.” The building was rushed to completion. The Hamilton business was formed on 1 July 1873, when George W. Marston and Charles W. Hamilton were partners in the Gaslamp Quarter.

64. “Architectural Honor Awards,” Southwest Builder and Contractor, 14 July 1933, p. 13.

65. See “New Downtown Store Building To Be Started at Early Date,” San Diego Union, 19 May 1929, p. 1 (Develpment Section); “Ultra-Modern Store for Smart Avenue,” San Diego Union, 26 May 1929, p. 4; and “Modernism Creeping Upon Old Haunts,” San Diego Union, 21 July 1929, p. 3 (Development Section), for further details.

66. Southwest Builder and Contractor, 24 August 1928, p. 69.

67. See “Walls Bend As 24 Tons Hit Them,” San Diego Union, 7 March 1929, p. 1; “Blames Girder Crash on Steel Spans’ Swaying,” San Diego Union, 8 March 1929, p. 2; and “Orders Company to Proceed With Gymnasium Work,” San Diego Union, 7 May 1929, p. 5. The Jarboe Construction Company, responsible for the construction of the gymnasium, was not implicated in the lawsuit.

68. See “$44,500 Awarded Injured Workers,” San Diego Union, 19 September 1930, p. (11) 1, for further details.

69. San Diego Superior Court, suit no. 60988, filed 19 July 1929, located in the Amero Collection, provides further details.

70. San Diego Superior Court, suit no. 68294, dated 5 August 1931, (Amero Collection), contains information on the Allen divorce. The Allens, married in 1904, had one daughter, Francis, aged 20 years, 9 months. There was no community property. Mrs. Allen claimed Allen had been “sullen and morose and had refused to talk with her.” Additionally, he “had quarreled with and humiliated plaintiff, absented himself from the home, told plaintiff he no longer cared for her as a husband, and refused to discuss mutual business affairs.” An Interlocutory judgment of divorce was granted by the Superior Court on 6 August 1931, and the final decree was issued on 5 September 1940.

71. “Architectural Honor Awards,” Southwest Builder and Contractor, 14 July 1933, p. 13.

72. The Allen biographical file includes a number of obituaries from newspapers in Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Survivors included Allen’s widow, Audrey; his daughter, Francis; two brothers, Roger of Grand Rapids who wrote the “Fired at Random” column in The Press, and Harry of Pittsburgh; two sisters, Miss Winifred Allen of Grand Rapids and Miss Marjorie Allen of New York.


Kathleen Flanigan is a teacher and the author of several works on San Diego history including San Diego’s Historic Gaslamp Quarter: Then and Now (1989). This is her fourth article published in the Journal of San Diego History. Ms. Flanigan has a B.A. degree in history and Spanish from San Diego State University and an M.A. degree in history from the University of San Diego.